Entering the final round of the 2016 NPL Queensland season the Premiers may already have been crowned last week in the form of the Brisbane Strikers, but there’s still plenty to play for across the final round of the regular season.
Strikers, FNQ and Gold Coast City have already secured their part in the Semi-Finals which begin next weekend, but for Brisbane City, Redlands United and Olympic FC the finals start a week early.
Here’s the table entering the final round of the regular season, and the fixtures to come over the weekend.
NPL Queensland table
Round 22 Fixtures
Redlands United v Brisbane Roar Youth.
Sunshine Coast v Gold Coast City
Brisbane Strikers v Brisbane City
Moreton Bay v Northern Fury
FNQ Heat v SWQ Thunder
Olympic FC v Western Pride
The big battle over the course of the weekend will be the race for fourth place between City, Redlands and Olympic and while City hold the edge going into the weekend, they do face the trickier task of the three in Saturday’s Brisbane derby against the Strikers.
The first big clash of the weekend in the race for fourth is tonight down in Cleveland where 5th placed Redlands begin a busy week with a home game against the Young Roar. The boys from the Bayside will be looking for a big win which will both eat into City’s goal difference lead over them, and also put pressure on the Newmarket based club to win the following day.
For Redlands this marks the beginning of arguably the biggest week in the clubs history with a finals place on the line, before a trip to Canberra in next weeks FFA Cup Round of 16 clash with Canberra Olympic. Should things go to plan in the league they would then have to get back to Brisbane for a Grand Final qualifier against the Strikers.
All eyes will then turn to Perry Park on Saturday evening when newly crowned Premiers Brisbane Strikers will celebrate their first piece of NPL Queensland silverware in front of their home fans in a clash with the desperate Brisbane City.
For Strikers there’s little riding on the game and they may infact have one eye on their potentially upcoming commitments which include the NPL Queensland Finals Series and their FFA Cup Round of 16 clash with A-League side Melbourne City in the next week.
City will certainly be hoping that the Albion based club have their minds elsewhere, as a win would in all likelihood be enough to secure a return bout with the Strikers nest weekend in the Semi-Finals. Anything but a win for City however will likely end their finals hopes as they’d then be relying on Redlands and Olympic slipping up at home.
The third protagonist in the race for the finals is Olympic, and after their sluggish start to 2016 to even be in the race for finals is a massive achievement for Terry Kirkham and his side. Their chances of making the finals are somewhat slim, and in truth they probably let their hopes slip in their 3-1 loss to Gold Coast City in Round 20.
To qualify for the finals, Olympic will need Brisbane City to fail to beat the Strikers, in addition to hoping that Redlands fail to beat the Young Roar, or if they do Olympic will need to beat Pride by three goals more than Redlands beat the Roar. It’s a long shot, but at the halfway point it of the 2016 season the Yeronga based side would have been a long shot to make the finals, stranger things have happened.
The other race to watch is the race to see who host the second Semi-Final, which will be played out between Gold Coast City and Far North Queensland Heat. Both are locked into second and third, but FNQ will need a win at home over SWQ Thunder or they’ll potentially open the door for the Gold Coast to sneak in and claim home field advantage earlier in the afternoon when they visit Sunshine Coast.
In the other game of the round there’s little to play for at Wolter Park between Moreton Bay and Northern Fury, with both sides looking to end a disappointing 2016 campaign on a high. Last seasons defending Champions Moreton Bay have struggled in their title defence with injury and changes to the squad resulting in a 7th placed finish, while for Fury they’ll be desperate for their first win of the 2016 season.
The 2016 season has been great fun across the winter months, and it promises to be even better as the finals series begins next week. Before that however there’s the small matter of deciding who will earn the right to finish fourth, and with three games having a direct impact on the outcome it promises to be an enthralling finish to the season.